Companies close stores across Florida as activists protest new immigration law

Activists on Thursday said they were fighting against Florida’s new immigration law. 

"The reason why we're here today is to support each other and fight for what's right," said grain worker Janet Leyva.

Central Florida immigrants, rights groups, and their supporters turned out to denounce SB-1718. They said the new law created barriers to employment, healthcare, education, driver's licenses, and more for Florida’s immigrant community. 

Many businesses in Central Florida were closed in solidarity with the immigrant community. 

"We are making a commitment. We are not going to let Ron DeSantis and his henchmen change the whole world," said Sister Ann Kendrick from the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka.

The new law includes mandates that employers with more than 25 workers use the Federal Government's e-verify system when checking work eligibility, makes some hospitals ask about patients' immigration status before treating them, and increases penalties for people caught smuggling undocumented workers into Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s running for president, said there was an immigration crisis going on. "We've got massive problems at our southern border with Mexico," he said at a rally.

Florida's activists held similar protests Thursday in Jacksonville, Vero Beach, Tampa, and the farming communities of Immokalee and Pierson. 

Activists like Carlo Negron said the state should have their backs. "The legislature should stick up for making sure our communities have more access, that our communities have access to work, that our communities have access to the ballot box."